Did you know top performers do 80% of the work before they even walk into a job interview? Knowing how to prepare for a job interview helps you ensure that that crucial first meeting is successful.
How to prepare for a job interview in 5 steps
Here are five steps to prepare for an interview so you can play the game better than any other candidate and land your dream job.
1. Get into the interviewer’s head
There isn’t a big difference between phone, in-person, or video interviews. Phone interviews are generally an initial screening tool before a video or face-to-face interview. In all cases, hiring managers and potential employers have the same concerns running through their heads.
- Can you do the job?
- Are you professional?
- Are you paying attention?
- Will you stay awhile, or will I have to go hunting for replacements soon?
- Are you invested in the company or just here for the paycheck?
- Are you a team player and easy to get along with?
- Are you a problem solver? Or will you come to me with every little thing?
As you prepare for an interview, your job is to think of the question behind the question and craft answers that get to the heart of the hiring manager’s fears.
Let’s take the most common interview question of all: “Tell me about yourself.”
First of all, Ramit would probably lose his mind if you were caught off guard by a question you knew you were going to get. Secondly, do you think they want to hear about your favorite ice cream flavor and how you’re a master woodworker in your spare time? (unless, of course, you are applying for a carpentry gig)
They want to know if you’re professional and can do the job. It’s a great question to highlight your skills and experience.
And you can bet potential employers are going to have questions about any red flags on your resume. Not because they want to see you break out in a cold sweat. They want you to succeed just as much as you do so that they can get back to the work piling up on their desk.
2. Script your answers
Once you figure out how to get into the hiring manager’s head with your answer to “Tell me about yourself,” you’ll want to think of 10 questions you’re likely to be asked. Your goal is to make yourself the hero in all answers, letting your accomplishments, efforts, and skills shine through. Crafting the perfect response is just a matter of following these three steps:
Step 1: Find the question behind the question
Step 2: Write a plain English answer
Step 3: Polish your answer
Take the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question. Here’s what you don’t want to answer with:
“I’m a perfectionist.”
Like they haven’t heard that one a thousand times before.
The employer wants to know if your weakness will get in the way of you doing the job. A straightforward answer would be:
“I’ve always performed well as an employee in spite of it, but I know I could get even more done and be more efficient if I had better organization skills. It’s something I’m always actively working on.”
That’s a decent answer, but we can make it powerful by adding details to create a compelling story:
“I’ve successfully managed teams of 100 people or more to close projects on time and budget. But I know I struggle with organization and could have even greater results if I had better systems in place. Although it doesn’t come naturally to me, I’ve worked hard to make programs like Inbox Zero and Getting Things Done a part of my work habits. Since implementing these techniques, I estimate I improved my efficiency by 30% while decreasing time spent on projects and increasing client satisfaction.”
You also want to prepare to talk about achievements on your resume in greater length. Bullet points don’t give the whole story, so you’ll want to be ready with details. Take a look at the job posting as well. What’s the company looking for in a hire? How can you show that’s you?
3. Practice, practice, practice!
You’re not doomed to fail every interview if interviewing isn’t something that comes naturally to you. It’s a skill. And as a skill, you can master it.
Put on your interview outfit, practice entering the room with a warm smile, and pretend you’re talking with your actual interviewer. Recite your questions and answers, record yourself, and train and record with a friend. The goal isn’t to remember your answers word for word. You want your responses to sound clear, concise, and confident.
As you replay the recording, notice more than just your words. What’s your tone? Facial expression? Body language? Posture? Are you fidgeting? Any annoying habits like adding “you know?” to the end of every sentence? You want to make sure you’re coming across in the way you intend.
4. Use the Briefcase Technique
And while you’re practicing, nail down Ramit’s Briefcase Technique, where you pull — from an actual briefcase — at just the right time, a proposal on how you can help the company achieve their objectives. Do this, and you’ll be leagues ahead of any other candidates vying for the job.
Why is it so effective? Because the interview isn’t just about you. It’s really a mutual conversation on how both parties can help each other succeed.
5. Don’t forget your last-minute homework
Sometimes it’s the little things that can completely throw you off your game before the interview even starts. To be as prepared as possible, here are the top three things to do one to two days before the interview:
- Put copies of your resume, reference letters, job-related questions, and pen and paper into your briefcase (portfolio or tote).
- Get directions to the interview with a plan B route, just in case. Aim to arrive 30 minutes early, but only enter the reception area 10 minutes before your time. This allows you to fill out any paperwork without making the interviewer feel guilty about having you wait.
- Get up to date by researching the company through the news and various social media sites and look for anything new or noteworthy that you can tie into your skills or experience.
Land your dream job
Preparing for the interview is one of the most important things you can do in your job search, but it’s just one part of the win. If you need the step-by-step from beginning to end, enroll in Ramit’s Find Your Dream Job to make landing the job you want a reality.